Guys, I'm concerned about Jadeveon Clowney. Oh sure, he ran a sub-4.5 40 today at the combine and is perhaps the best athlete to enter the draft in recent memory. But fuck all that. What I really want to know is ... HOW IS HIS MOTOR?! Twitter, can you be of service?
Oh yeah, that's the stuff. If you have neither MOTOR nor HEART, what good are you, really? I should kick you down my draft board like a beach ball down a flight of stairs.
The NFL combine is an inherently silly non-event that feels more and more like an act of mass sublimation. But perhaps the silliest thing about the combine is the fact that NFL teams spend days and days trying to quantify to a distant decimal place the talents of every athlete in attendance, only to discard those measurements in an elusive and ultimately idiotic pursuit of MOTOR. Why even have a combine? Why not just stick a camera in every player's dorm room? Then NFL general managers could stare at them naked AND see if they ever dared to spend a waking moment not thinking about football. Far more bang for your buck.
It's a sin in American sporting culture not to enjoy playing your sport. You can be rich. You can be talented. You can have a bad day on the field. But if you're a football player, and you readily admit that you don't enjoy playing football all that much? You might as well admit you're a Holocaust denier. It's automatically assumed that if you don't love football, you won't try as hard, and that the team and the fans won't be getting their money's worth out of you. Why don't you like football, son? Are you soft? What's keeping you from skipping out on the team at halftime to go pick daisies? YOU ASSHOLE.
Sports is a strange alternate dimension of America where passion is automatically assumed to be correlated to greatness. This isn't true in real life at all. Like millions of other people, I like playing golf, but I suck at it. I like playing the guitar, but I suck at it. I like frosting cakes, but I suck at it. I really do. I don't know how you ice a cake without making the thing look like a wall that melted.
As with most things, I blame Bill Belichick for this outbreak of MOTOR-related lunacy. It was Belichick who enabled the whole Patriots Way myth that other NFL teams have latched onto as if they were digestive bacteria. Former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli used to boost team captains up his draft board because, well gosh dang it, captains WANT IT MORE, you know? Pioli was run out of town, of course, and yet that insane mentality persists.
You do not have to love football to be great at it. It's just like any other pursuit in that those who are gifted with ability are not always the ones gifted with passion. Philip Roth hated writing, but he was very good at it. Andre Agassi famously hated tennis, but he was very good at it. Look at every fucking decent actor who can't wait to direct instead. Enjoyment is not the sole engine of ambition. People are driven by a whole shitload of varying factors in life: money, family, vanity, duty, a pack of hungry coyotes chasing after them, etc. Desire is just one of them. And the truth is that desire is often a shitty pied piper. Look at every failed American Idol contestant. Oh, they have desire. Holy shit, they have desire. They have so much desire that it never occurs to them to go do something that they might be good at but might not like as much: chartered accountancy, Ibogaine addiction, etc.
Football is no different. If you do your job competently and professionally, why on Earth does it fucking matter if you like it or not? It doesn't. America loves to elevate the twin notions of doing what you love and loving what you do, but most of the time we learn and grow and prosper when we do things we DO NOT LOVE: working shitty jobs, doing chores, studying for exams, etc. Those are the times where we get out of comfort zones and learn new shit and accumulate all kinds of annoying bits of wisdom. Football pays well and offers players fame and easy access to sex, but that doesn't mean every awesome player who steps on the field will enjoy his time there, nor is he obligated to. You can be a football player and take value from it and fucking LOATHE the game with every fiber of your being all at the same time. For many successful people, the job is a need, not necessarily a want—a thing they feel compelled to do for reasons that they sometimes can't even explain .Football players play a physically catastrophic sport and are under constant pressure from nutjob coaches, asshole fans, and family members looking for a handout. Gee, I can't imagine why they wouldn't love the game! But no, knock Clowney down your board because he hesitated for half a fucking second when you asked if him if he likes playing run defense.
And keep in mind that we don't even know how Jadeveon Clowney feels about the game. It's pure supposition, based on fairly solid evidence that he skylarked through his final season as a nominally unpaid amateur athlete. Speculating about Jadeveon Clowney's MOTOR is a stupid person's way of discounting every other valuable asset he brings to the table, such as, oh, I dunno, WORLD-CLASS SUPERHUMAN SPEED. OMG guys he might get distracted! I don't know why fans or teams do this, especially when heart meant next to nothing for Tim Tebow or Danny Wuerffel or any other magic DESIRE UNICORN who wound up getting kicked to the curb. At its innocent best, it's just dopey contrarianism used as a means of demonstrating superior powers of discernment, like a video-store clerk tearing down an Oscar contender. Sure, everyone loves Clowney's game tape, but I had quibbles with the quality of the script. At worst, it's troll scouting, an exercise in queasy-making cultural dynamics.
Whatever the case, the people complaining about HEART and MOTOR are engaging in a silly fantasy. They're trying to stuff football into a ridiculous ideal in which the people playing the game must care about it as much as these people do, at all times and at all costs. I hope Clowney drops to my team. I hope his motor operates at 80 percent capacity at all times, because I bet that's still enough to mow down every goddamn thing in his path.